By Joshua Ephraim
I agree with the issues of restructuring and devolution of power. You should add to it resource control.
I disagree with you when you say that the “north” is opposing restructuring. I will ask which north? In the former northern region(which has been abolished since 1966) , we have north-west, north-east and north central geo-political regions. Not all of them oppose restructuring. I will even say they support it.
Rather , one should argue that it is only those benefiting disproportionately from the status quo, that resist change. Here it is normal with human reaction to change when you have to change to the unknown.
I disagree with your argument that in restructuring we should go back to the former regional structure. How time flies : People easily forget.Since 1959 there has been the issue of minorities complains which the Willinks Commission Report of that year tried to solve. It was swept under the carpet. It was due to the persistent cries that the mid-west region was created in 1963. But the ghost of minority complaints continued to hound the country, to date. The military, through elite consensus, tried to solve the problem by creation of states and more states. That did not seem to solve the problem.
To deal with it, the constitutional conference recommended among other things the creation of more states from the present 36 to 52. The report of this conference was never implimented and it has been swept under the carpet by the current Buhari regime.
All of these state creations were done under the military by “elite consensus” and it seemed not to have solved the problem. I dare add that no matter what the elite do will not solve the problem.
Nigeria is a country of more than 200 nations with diverse cultures. It is not a curse but a blessing if you look at what had happened in other divers countries of the world. If God had wanted these nations to be one he would have created them with no difference. Even the human anatomy is not the same. God has created humans to be different, although certain unifying strains run through. In whatever we do, we should respect this fact. It is only when we try to ignore it through discriminatory and domineering attitudes and actions that the problem continue to rear its ugly face.
But human beings are so ingenious : in politics and governance, they came up with federalism. Federalism is about recognising diversity by providing for it in such ways as to allow room for breathing and ingenuity of providing and devising ways for human existence and development.
Diverse and indepwndent people come together to the negotiating table to negotiate their common identity as a country and to agree the kind of government they should have and nd sharing of power and resources within the component units and between them and their common government known as the centre. In other words it is the agreement of the component units to be together in a country and to share powers and resources in an agreed way, more especially between the central government and the units.
Looking at Nigeria’s political history, this has never been done. Our nationalists were more concerned in wrestling power from the colonialists than looking at the objective reality of the component nations. They therefore did not care who was at the centre. They made a correct choice of federalism and fiscal federalism. However, in implimenting our federalism the issues of religion, tribe, region and minorities came up as more and more powers were being concentrated at the centre. It brought about undue attention being paid to the centre and intense rivalry among the elites.
However, no matter the attempts at solving and ameliorating the situation if the more than 200 nations of this country are not involved in negotiating the structure and powers that should be held by the centre and the units, such efforts will go no where.
Therefore to advocate return to the regional structures of the sixties may be a step forward but it will not solve the problems so long the minorities are not involved in negotiations and there is still the issue of domination by the larger groups of this country. That is my take.
JB Ephraim writes from Abuja